July 27, 2007
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) scored eight points to help the United States cruise past China, 101-60, in a Group B preliminary round game at the FIBA U19 World Championships on Friday at NTC Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia. Playing in a reserve role, Lechlitner converted 5-of-6 free throws and collected three rebounds in 20 minutes of action, as the Stars & Stripes (2-0) secured a berth in the tournament’s second round, which gets underway early next week.
The matchup with China (1-1) was expected to be more competitive for the USA than Thursday’s 95-25 blowout of Ivory Coast, and for a little more than one quarter, it lived up to that billing. However, the U.S. went on a 21-3 run that started late in the first half and carried into the third quarter, opening up a 54-23 lead on Maya Moore’s two free throws with 7:46 to go in the period. From then on, the Americans never led by fewer than 27 points, opening their largest lead of the day at 100-58 on a pair of foul shots by Angie Bjorklund with 1:38 remaining. The final margin was the largest for the United States in three U19 World Championship games vs. China, while the 101 points represented the fifth time in USA Basketball U19 World Championship annals that the squad topped the century mark.
“I was totally pleased with our metal preparedness tonight,” USA U19 and DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno said. “We came ready to play against a tough opponent, and we had tremendous energy to start the game.”
“There was a point in time when we held about a 12-point lead in the first half, and we could have let China continue to play with us,” Bruno continued. “But we really worked to keep them down, and we did a good job of understanding the concept of winning no matter your opponent. We really seized that opportunity, and that will really help us as we move forward to tougher and tougher competition.”
For the second consecutive game, all 12 USA players cracked the scoring column, with five reaching double figures against China. Krystal Thomas set the pace once again for the U.S., posting her second double-double in as many days with game-high marks of 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Vicki Baugh also grabbed 11 rebounds. Meiling Zeng led China with 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
The United States continued to assert itself on defense, holding China to a .257 field goal percentage (18-of-70), including an .091 ratio (1-of-11) from three-point range. As it did against Ivory Coast, the USA dominated on the glass against China, owning a 68-40 rebounding advantage. The rough-and-tumble game also featured a combined 56 fouls and 76 free throw attempts, with the U.S. converting at a solid .727 percentage (24-of-33) from the charity stripe.
The U.S. will close out first-round action in Group B Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET (8:15 p.m. in Bratislava) when it squares off with Lithuania. Live in-progress statistics from all games at the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championships can be found on the official tournament web site.
— ND —